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    Spring House Hunt | HANDYMAN ON CALL

    Hardware cloth to keep gutters sparrow-free


    Q. Help! My house is inundated with sparrows. They usually nest in the gutter downspouts, and dam the flow of water. Gutter guards did no good; the sparrows squeezed under them. Is there anything that will keep them away? They seem to have enjoyed the big owl I put on the roof.


    A. Instead of a gutter guard, buy 1/4-inch hardware cloth, and secure it very tightly with wires to the gutters so the birds can’t budge it. Hardware cloth is 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch galvanized steel mesh and is very strong. Another thing to try is to wait until the babies have fledged. There might be more than one brood, but that can’t be helped. Repellents can help, but they have to be renewed from time to time.

    Q.I have a new Whirlpool dishwasher, which drains to a drain pipe under the sink. In recent days the machine has had a foul smell, which seems to linger long enough to be a real pain. I had a plumber, a Whirlpool repair man, and Roto Rooter check it out, without success; they all said they could find nothing wrong. Now what? Pouring bleach down the drain helped some.

    ANITA ROBINSON,Mattapoisett

    A. Bleach probably cleaned out grease and oil and other smelly things, so continued use will help further. But if the odor remains, it’s time to go to the top. The Handyman always thinks it is sump water that gets stale in the bottom of the washer, but apparently that has been ruled out. So, call George Washington Toma, head of Toma TV & Appliance in Weymouth and my guru, to see if he has any ideas. If you call him, tell him that the Handyman suggested you call. Also, try reducing the amount of detergent you use.

    Q. Last year someone wrote in regarding aluminum foil that was “baked’’ on to the bottom of an oven. And I remember someone having a solution but I can’t think of what that was. As you might guess, we have the same problem. If you have it in your archives, we’d appreciate it.

    BILL & EMILY,Cape Cod


    A. My goodness, the answer you referred to is dated March 23, 2011. You hit it right on the button and I found it on the first try. This is it: When Joan asked the Handyman how to remove a sheet of aluminum foil she baked to the bottom of her self-cleaning oven, she did the impossible: she stumped the Handyman, who did not have an answer. However, from Eli Bortman of Winchester: Salt water corrodes (“eats away’’) aluminum. How about if the lady sprinkled a good amount of table salt on a few square inches of the foil on her oven bottom, put a wet paper towel on top of it, and left it for a few days (adding more water when needed) to see what happens? The salt won’t bother the enamel, but it might dissolve the aluminum foil enough so it can be scraped off.

    Q.1. My big in-ground pool is doing very well after 30 years, and the concrete apron is too, but is black with dirt. Bleach didn’t do any good, and pressure washing removed it, but is so slow that it would take months to clean it all off. What can I do to clean it, and keep it clean? 2. How can I get rid of the moss that’s growing on almost all of my north-facing roof?

    JOHN WASWILL,Marlborough

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    A. 1. Let the pros clean it for a fee, then you can coat the concrete with a masonry sealer, which will keep the dirt away. Hose it down once a week to prevent dirt buildup. 2. I think the warm winter contributed to the rather profuse growth of moss on roofs all over the region. Scrape it off bodily with a wood spatula or other wood tool. To hasten removal, treat it with vinegar to kill it and make it easier to remove. To prevent new growth, install a zinc metal strip under the row of roof shingles just below the ridge. With three inches of zinc exposed, rain will wash over the strip, bring dissolved bits of zinc down-roof, preventing new growth. This will not remove or kill the existing moss; that must be removed first. Contact your roofer for the strips. He might even install them.

    Q.I had a new roof installed four years ago, and recently all the plywood ceiling on the north side of the attic has turned black with mold. There is even a little appearing on the south side. And the insulation on the floor is damp. The insurance company refused to pay my claim. A roofer said his roof is not at fault, there are no soffit vents, but offered to remove the plywood and reroof that side, for about $4,300. What can I do now? A mold remediation project will cost about $8,000.

    STUART MacLEAN,Norton

    A. Talk about passing the buck. While the roof is not completely at fault, is its tighter than the old roof, and water vapor cannot escape and built up in the attic and condensed on the cool plywood until the mold grew and grew and grew. You said there are drip-edge vents, but they are less effective than soffit vents. So, install a continuous 2-inch-wide screened strip along the full length of each soffit (the under part of the roof overhang). Such soffit vents are the only ones that will work properly. As for remediation, do the math. The roofer’s offer is excellent; the remediation project appears excessive. If you are uncomfortable about the effectiveness of the ridge vent, buy a carbon dioxide wand that creates a nonflammable smoke (dry ice does the same) and check the ridge vent for air movement. Or simply replace the ridge vent. With proper venting, mold will not return, and the insulation will dry out. If it does not, replace it. Let’s hope that you won’t need another spring improvement project for a while.

    Q.I put Thompson’s water seal on my pressure-treated steps last summer, and it still has not cured well enough. When it’s wet, everyone tracks it into the house. What’s wrong?


    A. If you gave two coats, that is the problem. Only one coat is needed. To correct the problem, sand it off. Then leave the steps alone or apply one coat of a semitransparent stain. Sealers and semitransparent stains always need only one coat.

    Globe Handyman on Call Peter Hotton also appears in the g section on Thursdays. He is available from 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays, to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters from 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to